Critical Mass bike rides: Three riders tackle issues
On the front line
On the last Friday in April there was yet another Critical Mass held in Gainesville. Spirits were down on this ride. No one was happy at all. After I peeled off my German-made gas mask I rode mostly with my head down in disgust. There were representatives of the sheriffs and police department who met with me two days before the ride.
They wanted someone to talk to about Critical mass so I volunteered my time. (I now wish I hadn't.) They told me there were going to be enough officers from both departments out there to take down anyone who wanted to re create the March critical mass (all three lanes were taken over on 34th St., pissing a lot of people off.)
As I sat there amongst them in the lobby of the Civic Media Center they were eager to tell me what they thought of the last critical mass. "We're not going to allow this to happen again," they said bluntly. I was quick to assure them that I had no control over the rest of the riders and I was not the leader. They spoke to me in a voice sure that I was the leader of this strange cult. "We'll give you the full right lane," the officers said, trying to bargain with me. I told them that the only thing I didn't want to see was a thousand officers on bikes intimidating everyone. (which is exactly what happened) They quickly avoided the statement by saying "We're not intimidating you now are we Scorpio"? "No!!" I snapped back..
When I arrived at the Plaza of the Americas the following Friday one of the officers I met with was already there lecturing the riders that showed up early. I was amazed at the amount of police that was out there. Little did I know there was going to be a lot more than that. He looked at me as if to motion that it was my turn to lecture them.
This made me feel like an even bigger asshole. Not only did I feel like shit just meeting with them. But they made me seem that I was working for or with them. This was bad, so I spoke up and told the crowd of riders not to fear these cops because they are nothing more than people just like us. At this point I felt really stupid. The cops kept coming up to me wanting to know what our course was going to be so they can call it up to the cars and motorcyclists that were strategically placed around the city. About ten minuets later we figured out a route and after handing out the few biking stickers I had I put on my gas mask and proceeded not to talk to anyone. But that didn't work. cops kept coming up to me and thanking me for my help which required me to keep unstrapping my mask to talk to them. At this point I didn't want to show my face at all.
Moments later we took to the streets leaving the Plaza going directly to University Ave. where we met all the cop cars that went with all the cops on bikes that were with us. For thirteen blocks all the way to Main St. there were either cops in their cars or on their motorcycles at each corner waiting for someone to fuck up. Either they felt intimidated by us or they just wanted to show the rest of their fascist materialistic community that they were at least doing something to earn our tax money. Soon after our ride had begun out popped a green helicopter with the big yellow sheriffs star on the side of it. At first I couldn't make out what was on the side of the air ship so I asked one of the deputies that I never spoken to before what the helicopter was for. In a redneck wife beater voice he said, "What is that, a Shands helicopter"? I looked at him with a blank face. "Maybe it's a news helicopter," he said trying to sway my thoughts. So I rode to the front of the crowd of massers to find one of the officers that I had met with previously. I asked him the same question. Without hesitation he said, "That's for me so I'll know where everyone is at all times." I said nothing.
Everything that we didn't want to happen did happen that day. We got split up by traffic lights because the cops wouldn't let us run them like we usually do. The cops also made us look like monkeys that they were babysitting in front of all the rubbernecks that passed us by. On top of all that the cops told us that we could run the red lights if we were to buy a parade permit (which is totally against what Critical Mass is about). It was a sad attempt on their part to instill fear or show authority that day.
On our way back from Main St. we put out the word to split up at 13th. St. Our original route was to turn left at 13th with all the cops. But that didn't happen to their surprise. We split off in three groups one group went straight on University Ave, one went north on 13th St and the other turned left with the rest of the cops. This is where it got interesting. None of the cops expected us to do that. Their helicopter was flying around like a bird with one wing trying to find all the groups that split up. I soon got bored with everything and returned to the Plaza where there were already other bored riders there waiting.
Soon everyone from the ride showed up at the Plaza including the police. As we gathered underneath a magnolia tree we discussed having a meeting at the CMC directly afterwards. While our group slowly grew police were flocking in from all directions swarming around us like bees or sharks. None of them would be still they just kept riding around us like they were going to all pounce on us and kick our asses to finish off the day. After their hyperactivity had worn off they most of them lined up to take a picture with their captain that would soon go on his office wall next to all his other degrees and certificates. My friend Kevin and I quickly got behind them on our bikes trying to be in the picture. Kevin blurted out, "Hey! Can we get in the picture?"
In a stern drill sargent voice about three cops screamed, "NO!!". So thus ended my fun for the day. Only two people got messed with through the entire ride. One person got hassled while she was corking 13th street and the other while riding without any hands. Other than that everybody made it out alive with out being hassled.
I fear what will happen next time. I think it could turn out to be a cat and mouse chase with us and the police all around Gainesville. I know I will not let cops make me look stupid like that anymore. My main goal in Critical Mass is to make a statement to all those people in cars and on the street around me that our system is fucked and the best way to see all angles is by pointing out their hypocrisies. The sad thing is when you say or do something powerful that makes people think they become afraid of you and they neutralize your message by giving you a label that is not open to interpretation thus gaining allies who are completely ignorant to what's really going on in the world.
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